Five Feminists in High Fashion

In the past few years, feminism and high fashion have started to reconcile their differences. Some still insist that the two worlds are diametrically opposed foes, but without Coco Chanel, women’s choice to wear pants would have been just another trend. In 1997, famed literary critic and feminist Elaine Showalter wrote in US Vogue “from Mary Wollstonecraft to Naomi Wolf feminism has often taken a hard line on fashion, shopping and the whole beauty Monty . . . but for those of us sisters hiding Welcome to Your Facelift inside The Second Sex, a passion for fashion can sometimes seem a shameful secret life.” 

The world of high fashion has been separated from everyday life for most of the past century, but technology and globalism have ripped the doors off of couture houses. Runway models are now some of the most followed celebrities in the world on social media, fashion bloggers can make more than professional athletes, and the designers have noticed.

High fashion was founded on movement and creativity. The designers embrace and cultivate change. More often than not they are at the forefront of revolutionary agendas. Debates about body image and classism have fueled the fire surrounding the runways. However, members of the industry are making strides towards equality and using fashion as a medium to do so.


Diane Von Furstenberg

Von Furstenberg, credited with the first and famous wrap dress, began designing just before marrying into royalty. "The minute I knew I was about to be Egon's wife,” she said, “I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts.” (Vogue July 2012) Although she no longer holds the title of princess, Von Furstenberg has upgraded her title to include designer, author, multimillionaire, Time Icon award-winner, and 68th most powerful woman in the world according to Forbes. In 2014, she became part of the “Ban Bossy” campaign, which advocates eliminating the word “bossy” as a description of strong young girls by providing leadership roles and awards. Every year the DVF Awards honor women who display leadership, strength and commitment to their causes with a $50,000 grant to continue their work for the advocacy of women.


Leandra Medine

Medine is a high fashion blogger and owner of one of the most popular blogs in the industry, “Man Repeller.” The title says it all: that women should dress for themselves, even in a manner that can be ‘man-repelling.’ (It should be noted that Medine is happily married and her husband doesn’t care what or how she wears her clothing…and sometimes his.)


Miuccia Prada

In Spring 2014, Prada declared her models to be “strong, visible fighters.” The designer didn’t hesitate to reveal her intentions as an artist. “There is this debate about women again and I want to interpret it. My instrument is fashion,” she told Vogue. That season her line repossessed the garments of the female stereotypes all young girls grow up with. The schoolgirl knee-highs, the ladylike handbags, and the showgirl embellished bra top all came from the spring collection. It should also be noted that her showgirl bra tops ignited the trend of bralettes and liberated, visible underthings everywhere. In the show, Prada took her statement a step further by putting the diverse faces of modern femininity onto the very fabric of her line. Portraits of women done in the style of street murals covered the clothing and forced the fashion world to come face to face with her political agenda.


Gabi Fresh

Swimwear designer and plus-size blogger Fresh has made a career out of social media. Fresh designs modern swimwear for women of all sizes to ensure that no woman is kept from feeling confident and on fleek at the beach. Her blog features outfits made up of designer labels, Target, Old Navy, and DIY projects so that all readers find can find her style and content accessible. Nearly 300,000 followers see the words and pictures of Fresh’s fashion each day, expanding the influence of plus-size and minority women in the industry. This summer Fresh helped found the first annual ‘Curvy Con,’ a day-long event that brings plus-size brands, fans, bloggers, and YouTubers together “to chat curvy, shop curvy and embrace curvy.”



Rick Owens

The most daring of the bunch, Owens has built a career out of making artistic social statements on the runway. In 2014, his spring show defied all definitions when no models were to be found. Owens replaced them with step dancers and staged the show as a recital about raw feminine energy. This spring, he sent models down the runway carrying other models. His inspiration? "Women raising women,” says Owen, “women becoming women, and women supporting women."


Lucy Grearly may have said it best: “Having a sense of style is not selling out the sisterhood.” These five fashion crusaders are the living proof of that.


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